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Viewing cable 05BRASILIA1278, ARAB-SOUTH AMERICA SUMMIT - A NEGATIVE BALANCE FOR THE GOB

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05BRASILIA1278 2005-05-12 20:08 2011-02-06 00:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Brasilia
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BRASILIA 001278 
 
SIPDIS 
 
C O R R E C T E D COPY (TEXT) 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/10/2015 
TAGS: PREL ETRD PGOV XR XF
SUBJECT: ARAB-SOUTH AMERICA SUMMIT - A NEGATIVE BALANCE FOR THE GOB 

REF: BRASILIA 1252 

Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES PHILLIP T. CHICOLA, REASONS 1.4 (b & d ) 

1. (C) Summary: The Arab-South America Summit ended May 11. Unfortunately, for the GOB the reverberations may take longer to subside. The overwhelming consensus among Brazilian opinion-makers is that the event, and its ill-conceived declaration, will not enhance Brazil's image and call into question the ability of the GOB to achieve its developing world leadership aspirations. Observers concur that Arab participants departed the Brazilian capital in a joyous mood, as opposed to the sullen one among many South American representatives, and both left in their wake many ordinary Brazilians who were puzzled and irritated by the event. From the Latins' viewpoint, there were few bright spots. The new Iraqi government, however, emerges as a clear winner. At his first international foray, President Talabani was accepted as a legitimate head of state by all participants, made a positive impression, and perhaps more importantly, was vocally defended by other Arab participants (led by Algeria) when criticized by Chavez. Nevertheless, Talabani was heavily overshadowed by the distractions created by Argentine President Kirchner's early departure, Chavez antics, and a politically provocative declaration that, in the eyes of many Brazilians, "imported" into Brazil the problems of terrorism and the problematic Middle East peace process, while providing few visible benefits to Brazil or the region. The divisions created by the event, in the view of Brazil's Jewish community, could damage centuries of warm relations between Brazil's ethnic Arab and Jewish populations. End Summary 

PANNED IN THE REVIEWS --------------------- 

2. (U) Brazil's press overwhelmingly blamed the GOB for the Summit's dubious outcome. Lead editorials in Brazil's principal dailies expressed dismay that, while Arab representatives probably departed Brasilia in a jubilant mood, getting what they wanted in the declarations criticisms of the U.S. and Israel, the South Americans, who mostly wanted to talk trade issues, got little in return for their political concessions on the declaration. Noting that the summit is a milestone in President Lula da Silva's oft-stated ambition to create a "new political and commercial geography," a 12 May "O Estado de S. Paulo" editorial lambasted the GOB for the futility of its anachronistic "third-world" project. Meanwhile, the "bad blood" between Argentina and Brazil actually worsened in front of everyone's eyes, with Kirchner's early departure widely seen as a slap in the face to Lula. One political pundit in "O Globo", commenting on an outcome which in retrospect seemed inevitable, opined that "Brazil has succeeded with the Summit in displeasing the Greeks, the Trojans, and (even the) the Argentines." "O Globo" further mused that the summit results pointed up incompetence at Itamaraty, asking how any document which included in its preparation Syria and Hugo Chavez, among others, could not create major diplomatic controversy. 

3. (SBU) Numerous commentators pointed out that the Summit could have a "boomerang effect" on Brazil's foreign policy and global leadership ambitions. Lula came under particularly heavy fire from both the media and important Brazilian congressional leaders for his apparent reluctance to even use the word "democracy" in either the Summit itself (Lula mentioned democracy once in his closing speech) or press for its inclusion in the final declaration (where it appears once, in reference to the workings of the UN). Also controversial was Lula's closing comment that seemingly attributed the existence of terrorism to the "maldistribution of wealth." The irony was not lost --"O Estado" pointed out that while the declaration deplores poverty and the chasm between rich and poor countries, not a few of its signatories are potentates with immense personal fortunes who, with little regard for women or human rights, rule over improverished societies. 

EYE ON THE MIDDLE EAST ---------------------- 

4. (U) Iraqi President Talabani, as it turned out one of the few Arab stars attending the Summit, provided good copy to Brazil's press in defense of the U.S. presence in Iraq. Describing the outcome of the Summit in positive words, Talabani noted that the Summit supported Iraqi sovereignty and independence, the recent elections, democracy, the new government formed by the National Assembly, and condemned terrorism. "The presence of foreign forces does not signify occupation," Talabani was quoted in "O Estado de S.Paulo". But, he added, "We hope for the day when we will have completed the reform of our army and police and could then ask the Americans to depart." Referring to the lack in the final Summit declaration of specific language targeting countries that harbor or support terrorists, President Talabani told Brazil's largest circulation daily, "Folha de S. Paulo", that Iraq preferred "to resolve this problem with its neighbors in private conversations." What was accomplished in Brasilia, Talabani pointed out, was an appeal to the Arab media which indirectly supports terrorism, and, he added, that he "had received promises from Jordanian and Syrian leadership that they would stop this propaganda." 

5. (SBU) Referring to the "contretemps" with Hugo Chavez earlier in the Summit (reftel), Talabani said that he later spoke with Chavez and explained the difference between "occupation and the presence of foreign forces." According to the Iraqi President, Chavez said he understood. "Embracing and kissing me," Talabani added, "he (Chavez) said he supported our struggle." (Comment: Typical Chavez, inconsistent, emotional and insincere. End comment.) 

6. (SBU) In his interviews, Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also sought to present a softened image to the Brazilian press, but he was far less convincing than Talabani in demonstrating moderation. Referring to language in the final Summit Declaration that expresses the right of "resistance to foreign occupation," implicitly interpreted as condoning Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Abbas stated that neither group was terrorist. He expected that "all Palestinian factions will adopt peaceful means" in their struggle. He and other Palestinian spokespersons celebrated the final Declaration. "We are satisfied with the Summit...Everything in the Declaration is well said and reflects our thoughts." Abbas also praised President Lula for his "very positive, constructive role." 

7. (SBU) Understandably, Jewish groups in Brazil were less charitable about the Summit. The Confederacao Israelita do Brasil, speaking for Jewish organizations throughout Brazil, issued a manifesto immediately following the Summit attacking the role of the Brazilian Government for "importing a war that was not ours." Under the title of "Terror, No" the paper stated that Brazil had been "disrespected," especially since the stated purpose of the Summit had been the advancement of economic and cultural ties -- issues all but overlooked in the flurry of political rhetoric. The Declaration, the Confederacao noted, appeared to accept a difference between "good terrorism and bad terrorism," yet never made reference to such topics as democracy or the rights of women. Describing GOB motivations for an event focused solely on building commercial relations as "disingenuous," Confederation President Berel Aizenstein opined that the true intention was to obtain votes for a Brazilian seat on the UN Security Council. 

8. (C) Comment: In a conversation with Charge and PolCouns on the margins of a reception on the evening of 11 May, a subdued Marcel Biato, deputy foreign affairs advisor to Lula, criticized "press exaggerations" about summit controversies and defended the "symbolic value" of the event for the GOB's continuing strategy of outreach to non-traditional partners, in pursuit of building political and commercial alliances and its credibility as a global leader and UNSC candidate (Note: Septel will analyze this stragegy at the halfway mark in Lula'a mandate. End note.) In this regard, Biato said the GOB was prepared to absorb some criticism for an event it still deemed useful. However, Biato then offered a curiously contradictory and self-deprecating defense of the event -- i.e., that the Brazil summit would have no broad or long-term international consequence, hence critics of its outcomes should stand down and not worry. 

9. (C) Comment continued. Biato's confused defensiveness is illustrative -- the GOB will have difficulty convincingly portraying the summit in positive terms, politically or commercially, and its image for competence and leadership emerged tarnished. GOB officials cannot hide the summit's avoidable costs and the gains -- concretely, only an agreement to negotiate a commercial accord between Mercosul and the Gulf Cooperation Council -- do not seem to come close to compensating for the negative balance. In addition, it is far from clear that the summit, in any tangible way, helps Brazil in its quest for a permament UNSC seat. In fact, an Egyptian diplomat told Charge on the night of the summit's closing that it would make much more (we presume a UNSC seat for Egypt) before the Arabs would agree to support Brazil's bid for the Security Council. 

Chicola